John Bolton: Time for Israeli strike on Iran?
Vail, CO, Colorado
By John R. Bolton
Washington Post-LA Times News Service
With Iran’s hard-line mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unmistakably back in control, Israel’s decision of whether to use military force against Tehran’s nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever.
Iran’s nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
Accordingly, with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike is nearly inexorable. Israel is undoubtedly ratcheting forward its decision-making process. President Obama is almost certainly not.
He still wants “engagement” (a particularly evocative term now) with Iran’s current regime. Last week, the State Department confirmed that Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke to her Russian and Chinese counterparts about “getting Iran back to negotiating on some of these concerns that the international community has.”
Obama will nonetheless attempt to jump-start bilateral negotiations with Iran, though time is running out even under the timetables leaked to the media. There are two problems with this approach. First, Tehran isn’t going to negotiate in good faith. It hasn’t for the past six years with the European Union as our surrogates, and it won’t start now.
Unfortunately, the Obama administration has a “Plan B,” which would allow Iran to have a “peaceful” civil nuclear power program while publicly “renouncing” the objective of nuclear weapons. Obama would define such an outcome as “success,” even though in reality it would hardly be different from what Iran is doing and saying now. In short, the stolen election and its tumultuous aftermath have dramatically highlighted the strategic and tactical flaws in Obama’s game plan. With regime change off the table for the coming critical period in Iran’s nuclear program, Israel’s decision on using force is both easier and more urgent.
Those who oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons are left in the near term with only the option of targeted military force against its weapons facilities. Significantly, the uprising in Iran also makes it more likely that an effective public diplomacy campaign could be waged in the country to explain to Iranians that such an attack is directed against the regime, not against the Iranian people. This was always true, but it has become even more important to make this case emphatically, when the gulf between the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the citizens of Iran has never been clearer or wider. Military action against Iran’s nuclear program and the ultimate goal of regime change can be worked together consistently.
Otherwise, be prepared for an Iran with nuclear weapons, which some, including Obama advisers, believe could be contained and deterred. That is not a hypothesis we should seek to test in the real world.
John Bolton , senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, was U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005-06. He wrote”Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad.”
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